Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Graham Mather, President, European Policy Forum

  1.  The European Policy Forum is an independent international research institute. Amongst its areas of interest is work concerning improved efficiency and transparency in regulatory processes across the EU. Our supporting organisations include a significant number of broadcasting and telecommunications organisations.

  2.  The Forum has for some time been discussing with Departments and sector regulators ways to improve the application of Regulatory Impact Assessment requirements across Government. The Joint Committee will, however note that the draft Bill does not impose a requirement on the Regulator to show that the most efficient option for discharging statutory duties has been adopted through application of Regulatory Impact Assessment and demonstrating that proportionality principles have been applied. This requirement already applies to the Financial Services Authority and the Food Standards Agency and there would appear to be no reason why a formal duty to cost projected regulatory impacts should not be included in the Communications Bill.

  3.  A statutory requirement to undertake Regulatory Impact Assessment would not mean that the Regulator would be inhibited from discharging regulatory duties. It would, however, require Ofcom to prove that the most proportionate option for action has been chosen.

  4.  The proposed obligation is implicit in Clauses 2(a) and 5(1) but it is debatable whether the production of Regulatory Impact Assessments would be legally enforceable as the Bill stands.

  5.  It is recognised that there are circumstances in which it would not be reasonable to undertake RIA. One way forward would be that the requirement should not apply in enforcement cases, nor where Ofcom demonstrates that its proposed actions would be unlikely to have material commercial impacts. However, this could be drafted as a rebuttable presumption since there will inevitably be cases where regulated sectors identify impacts of which the regulator may be unaware.

  6.  I hope these comments are of assistance.

May 2002

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